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BBQ+A: Answers to Your Most Common Barbeque Questions

Everyone loves a good summertime cookout. It’s a great time to have a little fun in the sun with friends and family.  But do you know who else loves the hot weather? Bacteria that causes food poisoning.  Here are some food safe guidelines to help you and your family stay food safe this grilling season.

Photo showing burgers on the grill with flames beneath.Q: Foods like chicken and pork usually take a long time to grill. Can you partially cook the meat ahead to shorten the time on the grill?

A: Cooking meat ahead of time—by using methods like parboiling or microwaving—is only safe if you immediately finish the cooking process on the hot grill.  Never brown or partially cook meat or poultry to refrigerate and finish later because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed.

Q: Marinades are great for grilling meat or poultry. Are there any safety tips for handling these yummy sauces?

A: You should always marinate your meat or poultry in a sealed container inside the refrigerator, never on the countertop.  If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before using it on raw meat.  If you do need to reuse the same marinade that touched raw meat or poultry, boil it first to destroy harmful bacteria. Be sure to also wash any utensils or brushes used on raw meat before using them again on cooked food to prevent cross-contamination.

Q: Grilling shish kabobs can be great for a family outing, but should I be worried about raw meat touching other foods during preparation?

A: Since the vegetables on a kabob will be cooked to the same temperature as the meat, cross-contamination among the vegetables and the meat is not a concern.  After preparing the kabobs, they will be cooked right away so the risk is small.  Just make sure that hungry guests are not munching on raw vegetables that may have come in contact with raw meat juices.  The best thing to do is to cut up raw meat and poultry on one cutting board and use a separate cutting board and clean knife to cut vegetables.

Q: After a softball game, our team always has a picnic. We’d love to have hot dogs and hamburgers instead of peanut butter sandwiches.  How can we keep these foods safe while we play?

A: It is extremely important to keep perishable foods cold, especially in hot weather.  Bacteria grow on raw and cooked foods rapidly at warm temperatures and are more likely to cause foodborne illness.  Use an insulated cooler to transport and store your hot dogs, burgers, and other perishable foods.  Also remember to pack a cold source, like ice or frozen gel packs, to keep items cold until it’s time to grill.

Q: When I’m grilling food for my family and friends, I often have a lot of different items on the grill, like chicken, hot dogs, burgers, and ribs. How do I know when everything is finished cooking?

A: Impress your family and friends by cooking like a pro—using a food thermometer is the only way to know!  Put your food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat or poultry to measure the internal temperature.

  • Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
  • Ground meats: 160 °F
  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
  • Hot dogs: Cook until steaming hot

Q: On nice summer days, my family and I like to eat outside on the patio.  Is it still safe to leave our food out for two hours?

A: The two-hour rule applies when food is sitting out at room temperature. When eating outside on a hot summer day (above 90 °F), food should never sit out for more than one hour.  If you plan to sit out longer than an hour, you can keep food hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.  You can also keep cold food, like potato salad, cold by keeping it in a cooler until you are ready to eat it.

If you have any questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or visit to chat with a Food Safety Specialist. Follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter to receive daily tips and information on recalled food.


Infographic showing tips for safe grilling temperatures and food storage.

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Posted in: At-Risk | Events | Food Safety | IllnessTagged: Food Safety | illness | Kitchen